Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history, this film centres on just a few days in her life to offer some telling insights not only into the woman in question but also the culture of celebrity and the nature of political legacies. Yes, it's a complex, provocative film, artfully directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain (Neruda) and anchored by a riveting performance from Natalie Portman.
The story is set in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, as Jackie (Portman) retreats to her seaside home in Massachusetts to make plans for her future. She is visited by a journalist (Billy Crudup), who asks her about her experience in the days after her husband (Caspar Phillipson) was shot while sitting next to her in the back of a car. During these days, she has been faced with some big questions. Who is she arranging the funeral for? Herself? Her children? The American public? The future generations who will remember her husband? The only people she can confide in are her brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard), her assistant Nancy (Greta Gerwig) and a straight-talking priest (John Hurt). Her husband may have been a relentless philanderer, but Jackie is consumed by grief and unsure where her life will go now.
Continue reading: Jackie Review
Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943 Prague to assassinate a top Nazi official. Certainly the material is perfect for a big-screen thriller, and filmmaker Sean Ellis (Metro Manila) has filmed it with a documentary-style urgency that's edgy and exciting. He also has a sharp attention to detail, so the film is bracingly realistic, carrying a strong emotional kick in the final act.
In 1938, Western Europe's leaders handed Czechoslovakia over to Hitler when he promised not to start a war. But of course he invaded Poland the following year. So in 1941, the British military parachutes a team of Czech exiles back into their country to help the resistance. Two of these men, Jan and Josef (Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy), are on a secret mission to kill Reinhard Heydrich, the third in Nazi command after Hitler and Himmler. Known as the Butcher of Prague for his ruthless methods, it was Heydrich who devised the plan to exterminate the Jews. The resistance leader (Toby Jones) offers assistance for this mission, while two young women (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova) pose as Jan and Josef's girlfriends. But with heavy security around Heydrich, carrying this off is not going to be easy.
Ellis impressively manages to tell this story without present-day hindsight, seeing all sides of the situation from the perspective of the people involved. In other words, it's not just a matter of killing a historical villain: everyone knows that the repercussions of such an act would be horrific as the Nazis exacted brutal revenge. But they also knew that, within this small window of time, they had a chance to deliver a serious blow to the enemy. Ellis structures this carefully, building up to the assassination in a way that develops almost unbearable levels of suspense. The complexity of each scene is remarkable, and the film's final act is a stunning explosion of desperate violence.
Continue reading: Anthropoid Review
Filmmaker Charlie Stratton takes a rather obvious approach to Emile Zola's iconic 1867 novel Therese Raquin, ramping up the melodrama while drenching everything in shadowy doom and gloom. It's such a bleak film that it sometimes feels like a spoof, pushing every emotional story element to the breaking point. But the resilient premise still has something to say.
In deeply repressed 19th century French society, Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is an orphan raised by her over-involved aunt (Jessica Lange), sharing a bed with her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton). When she comes of age, Therese is simply expected to marry Camille, after which all three move to Paris to open a shop. Soon Therese meets Camille's old pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac), who sparks her lust in ways the wheezy Camille never could. And as they begin a torrid affair, Therese and Laurent know that they can only be together after Camille is dead. So they hatch a nefarious plan, but life doesn't play out quite as they expect it to.
Writer-director Stratton makes everything so stylised that it can't help feeling stagey, with streets, sets and costumes that are relentlessly drab. The main colour scheme is dark greys and browns, and everything is swamped in murky shadows as the characters swap anguished glances. The actors do what they can with this. Olsen and Isaac manage to generate some sweaty chemistry, which transforms into something very different in the final act. Felton finds some humanity underneath Camille's obnoxious exterior. Lange merrily chomps the scenery as the glowering, over-reacting matriarch. And casting Matt Lucas, Mackenzie Crook and Shirley Henderson in key supporting roles can't help but add some unexpected comedy ("I have a touch of the vapours!").
Continue reading: In Secret Review
Ottway (Neeson) works as a wolf-sniper for a petrol company in the far reaches of Alaska, but is struggling with thoughts of suicide because he misses his wife (Openshaw) so much. Then on a flight to Anchorage, the plane is hit by a severe storm and goes down in the middle of nowhere. There are a handful of survivors, and Ottway soon becomes the leader when they are menaced by howling, growling wolves. Knowing they'd be safer in the treeline, he leads five other men from one peril to another.
Continue reading: The Grey Review
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Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...
Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...
Filmmaker Charlie Stratton takes a rather obvious approach to Emile Zola's iconic 1867 novel Therese...
The story (by cowriter Jeffers) this film is based on was clearly inspired by Jack...